Funding is available for a PhD student to work on an NRF-funded project entitled 'Risk, anxiety and moral panic in the global south', based in the Media Studies department at Wits. The student in question would need to be registered for a PhD at Wits and supervised or co-supervised by the grantholder. S/he would ideally be beginning her/his doctorate at the start of 2017, although students who began in 2016 and have not yet had their proposals passed will also be considered. Applicants must have an excellent Masters degree (70%+) and a PhD project that is relevant to the topic. The selected candidate will be expected to complete the degree in good time and to produce at least one publishable output. S/he may not hold this studentship concurrently with another NRF grant, although other sources of funding may be acceptable. South African citizens are preferred and female and Black candidates are particularly encouraged to apply. The studentship is worth R70,000 a year, subject to renewal.
This project is concerned with questions of risk, fear, anxiety and moral panic in the global south (a problematic but useful term). It aims to emphasise issues of race, space and power, as well as to initiate more comparative studies of urban forms and representations across the global south.
Moral panics, urban legends and other narratives that develop to explain or express social anxiety are valuable sites of analysis for what they reveal about the way in which groups and societies imagine themselves, as well as the factors of risk, identification and self-perception that help to construct them. Additionally, as these events often play out in the mass media, they are an important location for the investigation of the role of the media. The project is interested in the way in which cultures of fear, moral panics and collective anxieties manifest in circumstances of heightened insecurity and the accelerated social change that comes as a consequence of rapid globalisation and urbanisation.
This interdisciplinary project is interested in how South Africa, as a case study for a global south argument, imagines itself through the media, and how questions of fear, risk, evil and anxiety impact on both the construction of the modern self in South Africa and the appearance of pervasive anxiety formations.
Drawing on the work of the philosopher Zygmunt Bauman and his writings on fear, liquidity and the modern, the project investigates the theoretical concepts of risk, anxiety and moral panic from a global south perspective; the mass media in South Africa as a site of social anxiety; the role of social/digital media in fostering imagined communities that coalesce around shared anxieties of identity; the racialisation of risk and fear; popular myth and narrative as sites for the development of unified or divided group identities; the manifestation of fear cultures in the global south, as represented in South Africa; and forms and modes of urban anxiety across the global south.
Prof Nicky Falkof
Associate Professor and Head of Department
Wits Media Studies
Media Studies YouTube channel